It might still be August, but an enthusiastic skating group in Swindon can’t wait to start putting in practice hours for a festive winter performance.
The female group varies in age and ability, and while many come from different walks of life they all have one thing in common; a shared passion for ice skating.
The skating club has been running for five years, with life member and NISA Coach Lesley Norfolk-Pearce leading the female-only sessions.
Lesley recognised the potential for interest in a female-only class, and has grown the group from just one or two skaters to the twelve who skate with her regularly today.
The group grew by word of mouth, and soon the sessions were filled with women of different ages - almost all of them stepping onto the ice for the first time.
Some remembered Torvill and Dean and were always inspired by the dazzling costumes, others needed a new hobby that would help them lose weight and some had always wanted to skate as a child but had never had the chance.
Soon the women were hooked on the sport, and now, as well as being competent skaters, are also the best of friends.
Julia Cook from the women’s skating group said: “Some of us are working our way through the Skate UK Programme, and others have successfully completed NISA tests.
“We’re different ages, shapes and sizes, but all of us absolutely love to skate. I don’t think many of us expected to become so hooked, as most of us came to the group as beginners when we first joined.
“It definitely helps that we are all able to progress together as friends and support one and other. I found that being with like-minded ladies gave me the courage to go in the first place, and the motivation to continue.
“Many of us get a real buzz during sessions, and all of us definitely feel better afterwards. Our Coach, Lesley, certainly works us hard, and sometimes we even wonder how we’re going to manage to skate after the warm-up session!
“But the sense of achievement we get doing the class is amazing. We learn and master new things all the time, and often it’s something difficult that initially we never thought we could accomplish.”
But as well enjoying the sport together, each year the group put in extra practice hours to perform a special routine at the Children’s Figure Club Christmas Show at Swindon Ice Rink.
The group have been performing in the show for the last four years, using the autumn and the beginning of the winter months to prepare for it.
They meet fortnightly for 1 hour and 15 minutes every Tuesday evening, and as Christmas comes closer the ladies use the time to perfect their special performance.
Julia said: “The highlight of the year is practising and performing a routine at the Children’s Figure Club Christmas Show – this one will be our fifth.
“This is always a challenge, as we all feel totally out of our comfort zone. But every one of us ends up absolutely loving it on the night.
“The most important thing is that we have so much fun and everyone is always willing to try new things and get stuck in.
“We are passionate and enthusiastic about skating, and all but two of us have learned as adults, having never skated before.
“I would recommend everyone to give it a try. The sport itself offers a wealth of health benefits, such as improved flexibility, balance, strength, co-ordination and mental stimulation.
“But the best thing is being able to enjoy it with everyone as a group, we’ve all made brilliant friends and we love our sessions on the ice.”